More on Mammograms
Horizons Newsletter, Sept/Oct 1999
If you're a woman, your risk of breast cancer increases as you age. So simply being an older woman puts you at risk for this disease. The key to surviving breast cancer, however, is to find it early, before it has spread.

We talked briefly in the May/June issue of Horizons about early detection techniques, including monthly self-exams, regular clinical breast exams and mammograms (breast X-rays). Because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and because our older female readers are in a high risk group for breast cancer, we'd like to revisit the topic, with a focus on mammograms.

Mammography is a Medicare benefit and is a covered benefit for Secure Horizons members. Make sure your primary care physician and/or OB/GYN are aware of your medical history and any family history of breast cancer to make sure you get mammograms as often as is appropriate for you. (Refer to your Secure Horizons Evidence of Coverage handbook or your Summary of Benefits brochure for the mammography benefits covered under your Secure Horizons health plan.)


A screening mammogram is done as a preventive measure for a woman not experiencing any breast problems. A mammogram can find tumors too small to be detected by a breast selfexam—sometimes as small as a grain of sand. Remember, though, that mammograms will not detect 100 percent of tumors. Breast selfexams and clinical exams are important pieces of an early detection program.

A diagnostic mammogram is done to evaluate a woman who has experienced signs of potential breast cancer. A radiologist looks for the suspected abnormality to determine if further testing is needed.


During the mammogram your breast is compressed between two X-ray plates. It's uncomfortable, but the flatter your breast, the clearer the X-ray.
When you go for your mammogram, wear separates so you can remove your top without disrobing entirely.
Do not wear deodorant, perfume, powder or lotion, as they can affect the quality of the X-ray.
When you go for your mammogram, be sure to confirm with the facility office staff the name and address of your primary care physician and/or OB/GYN and ask that they forward them the results.

This final tip is the most critical: Take advantage of your health care coverage and get your mammogram. If you're due for one, schedule it today. If you're not sure when you need one, contact your doctor's office and find out. It could save your life.


· The Harvard Guide to Women's Health, 1996

· PacifiCare's Healthwise Handbook, 1997

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